Mosques & Bazaars – Cairo Day 2

What jumps out at me most as our group of 40+ immerses itself in Cairo (the capitol of Egypt) is how warmly welcomed we are, how safe we feel, and how much damage the handful of extremists caused not just to Americans, but also to all Arabs, with their heinous act on 9/11. Extremists exist in almost any group. In this case, the Muslim extremists had a longstanding impact because their act was so horrid. As I get to know Egyptians (both Muslim and Christian) in their own country, I feel bad for they way they have all paid for the extremists in their ranks. Personal stories from a few have brought this home…for ex., our own guide (an Egyptian Christian) was denied a visa to visit the U.S. several times, even though his parents lived there and his father was very sick, because of a long hesitancy after 9/11 to allow any Egyptian man into the U.S. who had not already proven his trustworthiness. “I didn’t blame them,” he said. “It just was tough.”

And then there was this. In the airport today, on our way from Cairo to Luxor, a well-dressed middle-aged man came up to our group. Keep in mind that it’s obvious to everyone that we are Americans – by our speech, dress, and travel in a group. He wanted us to know that he really likes Americans. He seemed to be trying to apologize, in a way, for Egypt’s connections to some of the 9/11 terrorists even though he had nothing to do with it. He was so glad to see American tourists in Egypt and wanted us to feel welcome, so he walked over to make sure we did.

It was touching. Not surprising, but touching. People wave or smile at us constantly here. I know many Americans still have a basic fear of any Arab. I’m so grateful that no Americans have done heinous deeds in other countries, or it could happen to us too. Not likely–but it could.

And to think we worship the same God, share some of the same Bible, and admire some of the same people in that Bible. (Many Muslims believe in the Virgin Mary.) Religious beliefs can cause such havoc when hijacked by extremists! It’s sad for all of us when that happens.

I’m “talking religion” here because our guide brings it up, and because our tour group wants him to. Nobody is arguing–just learning. So refreshing.

I’m writing this from the boat on the Nile, which will be our home for seven days, 300 miles south of Cairo. I’m writing a day or two late because it’s so hard to keep this up while traveling. Already, today’s images are replacing yesterday’s. So I’ll try to do this regularly as time, WiFi, and clumsy tablet allow. Photos below…

PS: One photo that doesn’t appear here is the group of middle-aged and old women who were cleaning the streets to earn $30 a month. It’s the only job they could get. They were friendly and wanted to talk but didn’t want their photos take

We’re about to enter this mosque. It’s a modest sign for a huge building that gets crowded at prayer time.
Entering Saltan Hassan Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Cairo, during Ramadan.
Our guide briefs our group of 22.
The beautiful walls of the mosque.
The imam, or spiritual leader, of the mosque sang a prayer for us. His voice echoed throughout the hall. It was beautiful and moving. Here, our Egyptian Christian guide asks the imam what words he was singing.
The son of the Shah of Iran is buried here. Americans of a certain age will remember the Shah, from the 1970s. The U.S. cared a lot about what he did. Why is his son buried here? Because Iran gave Egypt oil when it really needed it.
This marks the grave of an Egyptian King. Arabic is like Chinese or Japanese…very strange to those of us raised with a Latin-based language because it uses a different letter system.
This sarcophagus inside a Muslim mosque has a cross on it–clearly a Christian symbol–because the woman buried there was Christian. Muslim men are allowed to marry Christian women but Muslim women may not marry Christian men.
After the visit to the mosque, we had lunch at a rooftop restaurant. This is the view on a hazy day of downtown Cairo.
Our guide is explaining how a hookah is used to smoke various kinds of substances.
Hookahs are quite beautiful and sometimes used for decoration, not smoking.
Lemons are soaked for weeks in a mixture of garlic and herbs and used to clean the palate before eating.
A balcony puppet show. I’m not sure if it is really a show or just a decoration.
This artisan hand-carves plates of gold and silver and bronze. When our guide said that this is the real deal, several members in our group rushed in to buy stuff.
Roadside spices. I plan to buy some of these at the right time.
This huge bizarre specializes in 2nd-hand clothing. It went on like this for blocks!
Street scenes show the various ways that Egyptian women wear headscarves….in this case, with a ball cap on top.
We were told that married women wear black. So the woman in bright orange must be taking care of a young relative, not her child.
We aren’t sure just what the tourism and antiquities police physically do because we were never accosted by them. (We haven’t stolen any antiquities, as many have done!)
We toured the Cairo Opera House, which is beautiful but nothing unusual.
The Nile river under a very hazy sky.

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